Nick Roselli, OT - March 2020

FACT VS. FICTION: THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET AN EASY WAY TO EAT HEALTHIER FOR YOUR HEART

While the basis of the Mediterranean diet has been a staple in its titular region for centuries, it wasn’t until the 1960s that nutritionists popularized the concept in Western culture. Doctors noticed that Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy have less heart disease- related deaths than the U.S. and northern Europe. When they looked to regional eating habits for answers, they found a common plant-based diet rich in healthy fats, seafood, and bread. However, in modern years, misconceptions plague the popular diet, so let’s clear some up. FALSE. There are no defined portion sizes for the Mediterranean diet. Instead, it comes with a loose guideline: Eat a plant-based diet of mostly fruits and vegetables with a weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans, and eggs. Dairy products are allowed in conservative amounts, but nutritionists discourage red MYTH NO. 1: IT’S RIGID.

MYTH NO. 3: NUTRITIONALLY, IT’S 30%–40% FAT.

meat intake whenever possible. To the delight of many Mediterranean dieters, a moderate amount of red wine is encouraged!

1. Heat oven to 400 F. 2. In a colander, toss eggplant, zucchini, and salt. Let sit for 30 minutes and pat dry. 3. In an ovenproof pot, heat 1/2 cup olive oil. Add half of eggplant mixture, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove vegetables from pot. 4. Tie thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine. 5. In the same pot, heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, and cook onion, pepper, garlic, and thyme for 8–10 minutes. 6. Add half the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. 7. Stir in original eggplant and zucchini mixture and top with remaining tomatoes. Do not stir. 8. Transfer pot to oven and bake mixture for 15–20 minutes. 9. Remove pot from oven and remove thyme bundle before serving. TRUE. But be careful about which type of fat. The Mediterranean diet relies heavily on olive oil instead of butter or lard for cooking. Saturated fats, trans fats, or hydrogenated fats like palm oil don’t contribute positively to your heart health, but a diet based on natural fats can improve your overall cholesterol levels. Fatty fish are also crucial for the Mediterranean diet and include salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, albacore, and lake trout. Thanks to omega-3 fatty acids, consumption of these fish improves your blood circulation and reduces inflammation in the body. If you’re concerned about your heart health, try out this plant-based diet with a focus on foods local to you for long- term health and delicious meals. Your body will thank you! RATATOUILLE DIRECTIONS Inspired by Bon Appétit

MYTH NO. 2: IT’S EXPENSIVE.

FALSE. You don’t have to eat only what’s native to the Mediterranean, so don’t swear off avocados just yet. Eat locally by choosing in-season fruits and vegetables that benefit your diet and your wallet. You’ll find that preparing meals centered on vegetables and whole grains is very affordable, especially when you get your grains from dry bulk bins. And while buying olives and cheese might be expensive, you can get away with buying small amounts. Try different brands of canned olives for affordable alternatives to bottled ones. Plus, some grocery stores place cheap cuts of their premium cheeses near the deli.

TAKE A BREAK!

INGREDIENTS

• 1 eggplant, peeled and chopped • 1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch- thick rounds • 2 tsp salt • 3/4 cup olive oil, divided • 5 sprigs thyme • 1 large onion, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick • 1 red bell pepper, chopped • 2 garlic cloves, sliced • 2 pints cherry tomatoes

• 3 WWW.NROTHANDREHAB.COM

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